Lewisham Council writes off £365,000 in unpaid rent

Lewisham Council has given up on trying to claw back £365,000 in unpaid rent – including from a man who allegedly pretended his dead mum was alive.

A total of £365,462.94 is owed by former tenants. The figure includes unpaid rent and the money spent on court costs in an attempt to get people to pay.

The local authority has given up chasing over £12,000 owed by a man who pretended his dead mum was alive for three years, Lewisham’s budget report for the 2022/23 financial year claims. 

His mother, a council tenant, died in 2013 but he claimed she was alive until February 2016. Council documents read: “Tenant died in 2013 but son pretended mother was alive until February 2016. Son’s succession application refused due to insufficient evidence, but legally challenged and approved.”

He made no rent payments and ended up being evicted after racking up arrears, according to the council budget report. The council asked debt collectors to track him down at his new address, but they were unable to find him. 

In another case, a mum with 11 children owed the council £12,363.56 after falling into rent arrears due to the benefit cap. The cap – introduced in 2013 – limits the amount of money people can claim in financial support from the government. 

The mum ignored the council’s attempts to help her and fled London, abandoning the house. Lewisham Council asked debt collectors to track the woman down. They traced her to a new address but were unable to recover the five figure sum she owed. 

Lewisham Homes – the council-owned company which manages the local authority’s social housing – initially chases debts owed by former tenants. Debt collectors are called in if the council is unable to get the money back itself and they receive a share of any amount they are able to recover. 

Councillors agreed to write off the debts of 29 former tenants, who each owed over £10,000, at a cabinet budget meeting on February 9. 

The council agreed to raise council tax by the maximum amount of 4.99 per cent at the same meeting. Lewisham Council has been contacted.

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